Photo: Suomen Palloliitto / Jussi Eskola
Always enthusiastic, engaging and brimming with football knowledge, it is not hard to see how Marianne Miettinen has scaled the heights at the Suomen Palloliitto (Football Association of Finland).
A UEFA Pro Licence holder, the Finnish FA’s Performance Director (Girls) and U-19 Women’s Head Coach spoke exclusively to Women’s Soccer United on a range of issues – including the recent FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and how much reaching November’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay means to her country.
Women’s Soccer United: It was a busy August for you, with two separate visits to the U-20 Women’s World Cup in France. Could you give us some of your impressions on the competition?
Marianne Miettinen: Yes, that’s right – in the group phase I was there with seven of our youth national coaches from Finland, as we’re currently updating our plans for player development and for the style of play of our youth national teams. Last year, we carried out an analysis of the [UEFA] Women’s EURO and this year we did that for the U-20 Women’s World Cup.
[Our analysis involves assessing] how do the different teams play? What are the trends tactically, technically, physically and mentally that we could be better at? And what are we already good at – keeping in mind our identity here in Finland?
Later on, towards the end of the U-20 World Cup I came back for the FIFA Women’s Football Conference [in Rennes], and had the opportunity to see the match for third place and the Final. I think Spain are fantastic now at every level: just look at their results in the U-17 and U-19 EUROs [N.B. Spain won both events this year], plus the senior women’s national team and their U-20s. They have very skilful players in every area of the pitch!
WSU: And what did you make of the champions Japan?
MM: I loved Japan! I saw them play against United States in the group phase and I saw them again in the Final: I think they are a wonderful team with fantastic footballers. They prove that you don’t have to be big or very tall to succeed. Their players aren’t tall but they’re really athletic and quick and their decision-making is especially fantastic. In my view, having Spain versus Japan in the final, showing just how good football they could play, was the best possible marketing for women’s football.
WSU: You coached a Finland squad containing the likes of Nora Heroum, Juliette Kemppi and Adelina Engman at the U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2014. How would you compare that tournament with France 2018?
MM: If I compare this edition to the one I went to with Finland, I think the game has improved significantly. Teams are even better organised defensively than before and that poses a lot of challenges to attacking teams, in terms of how to break those defences down. Physically, I saw really fit players in every team. The speed of the game is getting higher and higher, so the physical requirements are greater, in order for the players to be able to keep up the high intensity and also perform actions at high speed. I think that was the biggest improvement compared to 2014.
UK-born but currently based in Spain, I’ve been covering men’s and women’s football for UEFA.com for several years, including trips to two Women’s U-19 European Championships